‘A precious possession,
who always stays around.
To laugh and cry.
Celebrate or sigh.
But never part or say goodbye.’
The frenzy of maddening media and an ever-evolving circle of friends both new and old marked the month of October. Little did I realize that the glitz of glamour and the new-found glory had to be handled deftly …..
I was among the top three finalist of the ‘STAR TV National Talent Hunt’ coveted competition. Winning the title meant enormous cash prize and an enticing trophy. This ‘trophy child’ had the burning desire to study abroad and winning the show was the sole key to unlocking my dreams and fuelling my ambitions.
My heart was pounding; I was dancing light feet and building a vast virtual world. This chase, this chaos led to a swarm of strangers engulfing all around. Amidst it all, I was referred to RJ John, my official dance-partner for the final round. In face of the amazing mystery that surrounded him, he became immensely important right from the first phone call and the first ‘Hello!’. Unlike others, he hadn’t praised my talent, rather he doubted and quizzed. His questions, his queries opened a plethora of scattered data-bits in my mind. The answers needed deep speculation and reasoning. He wanted to know it all and he was in some haste to find out… my relation with my friends, my intentions, my objectives. He had to chisel carefully and create a conspicuous variance to pre-define a winning edge. I was keen, keen to answer & keen to learn.
All this was happening on the digital media amiss the tete-a-tete. I had called him on his official number but within minutes he had jumped on my whatsapp sharing his mobile (a rarity amongst people of this profile). I was glad since it was an indicator of having made an excellent first-impression and that affirmed his attention. He advised freely and helped openly. He was subtle in suggesting and beckoned carefully but corrected immediately. He had become my self-acclaimed guru who was friendly and blessed with a perfect sense of judgement and precision.
Within a fortnight, he was spying me on my facebook through a legal friend-request. Quite involved, he would call at his convenience, talk at his leisure and work patiently to choreograph the dance-sequence. We were exchanging numerous messages, anecdotes, quotes, pictures and videos. Did the ease of media dwindle the line of control?… Was he a friend?.. Was it mutual?..
Now moving from fiction to reality, I was to meet Mr. RJ at an award ceremony. So, as soon as I reached the prestigious auditorium I dialled his number, the only known face person in that august gathering. He greeted me warmly and signalled to usher in. I entered, pushing the heavy door and began to glance at every eye-ball trying to figure out who RJ was. He had very few and dubious pictures on facebook and I was utterly lost in the attempt to match the ‘still’ with the ‘real’. Reality of course was even stranger, Mr. Stranger was strangely missing from the scene…… I was surprized yet hastened my steps to occupy a corner seat close by. Was he busy?.. Had he got stuck?… well, whatever, even if RJ was missing, I had to sit through the show since Ms. Jevani had sent me a personal invite.
Positivity of thoughts doesn’t always mend your mind and I was indeed feeling low. My phone which was already put to silence-mode started flashing some bright light. ‘Light in darkness’ is always a good omen. And Hey! wait, that was RJ calling, I immediately looked near the entrance. How silly I had been, he too must have had trouble spotting me. But the voice on the phone indicated something different…. He was spelling out instructions, ‘look to your left, extreme left!….. come right here!!..’…
So the lonely lady was graciously welcomed by this warm gentleman sitting in the fourth row at the extreme end of the auditorium. Indeed very hospitable! (sarcasm intended!!). Nevertheless, I paced my steps and reached the other end. Surprisingly(!), he also stood up, walked a few steps, smiled and shook hands, ’Hi! Chanchal…..’
‘You have come alone?’ He was asking the obvious. Nonetheless, I answered and I was totally intrigued by his smiles and friendly overtures. Within minutes I was addressed as ‘tu..’ and he seemed like some long lost childhood pal. New friendship, new connect. I enquired about his life, work…. and the conversation spun a yarn of goodwill around us. We sat through the show smiling, listening and clapping. The icing on the cake was his impeccable wit and utterly smart one-liners. I was completely at ease.
It was his arena, his people; media and other RJs surrounded us soon after the show. Quick assumptions are made when any lady is spotted next to a man. The confusion was grave but he wasn’t ruffled a bit, and politely corrected everyone. He was too mused but quickly turned around and said, ‘hey, you stay at a distance…. this will be trouble.’
But friends don’t create trouble, they create bonds. We were bonding. He was my host, comrade and friend for the entire evening. He courteously took me around and we cheerfully mingled with all. A streak of fun, laughter and pranks laced his persona… To him, my I-card sounded like an invitation for dinner, my media coverage was hyped and I was labelled a poor-company who avoided hard beverages and heavy food and was supposedly thriving on air and water. Little did he know that I thrive on friends & relationship. A lot of interesting topics were debated & interesting tales were narrated. Impressions were captured and time was beautifully spent. The conversation went on and on, making it tough to wrap up and leave for the day. In this ‘fight-for-first’ fiercely competitive world it is indeed a challenge to find two strangers who would compliment and praise each other. We, from the very onset, were praising in plenty. Good relationships can start at any point; they are not defined by age, name & gender.
The next few months were exhilarating, I was happy to have found a real pal. He indeed was. There were discussions, arguments, jokes and a surprise element always up his sleeves. Surprizingly we had loads of similarities yet there were few and marked differences. But a strange telepathy connected us and we could read each other’s mood-and-mind. There were ways to balance both aggression and depression. This connect rejuvenated our spirits. And this was no short stint of friendship, it was for keeps and I truly believed that we are never-too-old to make new friends.
Good time flies, it flew. Next morning was the final round and RJ’s bouquet reached even before the dawn of the day. I was to face the judges for a question-answer round. The required information was meticulously fed, and the right tone, pitch, intonation and pronunciation were repetitively rehearsed. The day was indeed immaculately planned to perfection, the dance sequence enthralled one and all. The applause was thunderous, the blueprint of my success was hand-crafted to reach a pinnacle whose radiance shone like diamonds in his eyes.
The next day………….. I waited for the usual messages and call……… but it all disappeared… RJ vanished and I was alone, all alone…….. in isolation, in illusion, in delusions..